Working in the community to support the most needy is an integral part of the lives of all friars. Whether it be on a wide scale and clearly visible to the community or a more private and personal mission, what is certain is that it is all done with a generosity of spirit, humility, compassion, service and complete giving for the poor.
Following in the footsteps of St Francis, helping the poor, serving the sick and destitute, is manifested in a range of outreach projects in today’s world. Below are some of the outreach services where the friars are involved.
Street Ministry and Food Bank
In the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, drug addicts, homeless, unemployed, alcoholics and other “forgotten” members of society have turned to Friar Patrick Henigan.
Diminutive and clothed in his habit and beanie, “Br Pat” was a familiar face and a listening ear to many street people who would otherwise have no-one with whom to talk. Loved and respected, he lived and walked among them until he retired in 2013 due to health reasons.
Br Pat was also instrumental in organising the needy with basic necessities. For years, Br Pat was a reassuring figure at a Food Bank where families, homeless and struggling individuals found not only food to fill their bodies, but hope and encouragement for the week ahead and spiritual nourishment for their souls.
An accomplished artist, he was involved in numerous gallery exhibitions and was named in the prestigious Top 100 People in the Melbourne Age’s annual awards in 2010. Friar Pat passed away in 2018.
In Sydney, the House of Welcome is an outreach of the friars through St Francis Social Services and provides housing, support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers. Regular foodbank donations are collected through our Franciscan Parish in Waverley.
Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney provides homeless men with a meal, clothing, medical treatment and refuge from the streets. Friar Noel English, before his retirement from ministry, built up a close bond with these men. This ministry continues with the support of members of our Secular Franciscan Community.
For over thirty years, Paddington’s ‘Come-In Centre’ in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has provided youth who battle alcoholism, drug addictions, illness, homelessness, sexual and physical abuse, with a place of refuge, support and help.
Over the years, friars such as Friars Nick Lucas and David Leary have been involved in the youth resource centre, helping these young adults who have no-one else. Numerous success stories and services – which continue to grow – are a testament to their unwavering work. This ministry continues now under the care of St Francis Social Services supported by a team of dedicated lay people.
St. Vincent de Paul Society
Many friars have had a long association with the St Vincent de Paul Society, taking a “hands-on” approach to the voluntary work and putting into practice the Franciscan values of empathy and service. In his role as the NSW State Youth chaplain, Friar Paul Ghanem supports both staff and volunteers in their work. Paul also assists St Vinnies in their telephone support line for refugees and he hosts a yearly retreat for young people involved with the Society and its outreach to the poor.
Whilst the number of active friars in ministry is substantially reduced through age and retirement, the Franciscan community in Australia continues to support community outreach projects through financial support and thereby continuing the legacy of St Francis of Assisi for those in need in our society.